Understanding the Benefits of Using a Community-Wide Approach to Reusing Brownfield Properties

When I joined EPA, I wanted to continue to help communities address their brownfield sites in a coordinated way – to bring the community, federal resources and stakeholders together to plan for the revitalization of neighborhoods, particularly in communities facing economic distress and disruption. EPA’s Area-Wide Planning (AWP) grants were modeled after New York State’s Brownfields Opportunity Area (BOA) program which provided a framework for communities to draft brownfields revitalization plans and consider implementation strategies.

The AWP grants recognize that successful, sustained community revitalization occurs by fostering inclusive revitalization planning among neighborhood stakeholders, local governments and the private sector. This locally driven planning advances health and inclusive economic development by fostering public-private strategies for community-wide improvements such as infrastructure investments to catalyze redevelopment opportunities on brownfield sites – the types of investments needed to equitably revitalize communities in ways that meet local community needs for jobs, recreation, housing, and increased tax base. The program recognizes the need to affirmatively address environmental justice concerns, and rejected the notion that only low market uses can be built on brownfield sites in low- and moderate-income communities.

We are investing $4 million in 20 new communities that have been impacted by plant closures and other economic disruptions. These recipients span the country from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, to southeastern Kansas, to Milwaukee and the Rustbelt, to the New York Finger Lakes, and Maine. The communities are some of our most vibrant urban areas, as well as rural communities like Whitewright, Texas and Hickory, North Carolina. I am also pleased to see that five of these new grantees are the lead for, or members of, an EDA-designated Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) region.

These new grantees will follow in the footsteps of our first AWP grant recipients by aligning and targeting existing resources, updating policies, continuing community involvement, and attracting new investment to the project area. These activities yield a variety of economic, social and environmental benefits to the local community. So far, these pilots have attracted more than $400 million in additional investment into their project areas.


Community input helped to shape these design concepts for the Core Revitalization Area downtown district in Kalispell, MT.


A critical aspect of the AWP process is the development of a well-organized implementation strategy – a list of short, intermediate, and long-term actions, resources needed, and project partners responsible for implementing the goals of the plan. A strong implementation plan clarifies how the community will follow through on commitments made during the process and turn the goals of the plan into reality. Incremental progress keeps momentum behind the effort; demonstrates to potential funders that the plan is viable in order to encourage additional involvement and helps the community remain dedicated to investing in the project area.

To further align community based plans in ways that promote sustainable economic development, EPA is partnering with HUD, DOT and EDA to better align AWP recipients with infrastructure and other economic implementation resources. One specific example is the preference accorded AWP recipients for DOT’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (or TIGER) discretionary grants.


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